The U.S. Constitution provides an outline of the rights of American citizens that includes how they may be accused, charged, and convicted of crimes – and punished if convicted. Within the Fifth Amendment is a clause called the “Double Jeopardy Clause” that prevents an accused from being prosecuted for the same crime more than once. With a defense of double jeopardy, a criminal defense lawyer can help a defendant avoid unjust treatment brought about by multiple parties making the same complaint. Yet, there are limits to a double jeopardy defense, so working with an experienced defense lawyer who understands its eligibility is essential.

Definition of Double Jeopardy

As it is written in the Constitution, the clause representing the concept of double jeopardy reads as follows: “No person shall … be subject for the same offence to be twice put in jeopardy of life or limb.”

It sounds simple: a person accused and charged of a crime cannot be prosecuted or punished more than once for that same incident. In reality, it is more complex. Criminal defense lawyers face questions from defendants such as: does this extent to serious crimes or to all crimes; when does the protection begin or ‘attach’ to an action; at what point does such protection end; and most importantly, what creates the ‘same offense?’ Answers to such questions can best be determined by a qualified and proficient criminal defense lawyer who has worked in the area of the law and handled cases that involved double jeopardy.

The Origination of Double Jeopardy

The idea behind double jeopardy is an old one, dating back to the days of 355 B.C. Athens Greece. The first legal courts of the western world stated that “the law forbids the same man to be tried twice on the same issue.” This clause has survived over the centuries, having withstood the test of time through various court systems dating from Athens and the Roman Empire to the Dark Ages, English courts, and the rising West.

The concept of double jeopardy was not without its limitations and abuses, especially in England prior to the colonization of America. Colonists In America expanded upon the definition, making the concept applicable to more than just capital offenses. The text eventually was amended to clarify its meaning and is used today by a defense lawyer as a means to avoid undue punishment for the same offense.

How Double Jeopardy Protects Defendants

A person who commits a crime should be prosecuted and punished for that crime; however, the judicial system should not punish that person unjustly or in a way that is greater than what the crime mandates. Double jeopardy comes into play if a crime is committed and a defendant is charged with the same complaint by more than one person or group. All complaints may be heard, but only one punishment is rendered as only one crime was committed.  A defense attorney uses this clause to ensure that a defendant receives a fair trial and punishment.

Any person facing criminal charges of a more serious nature should seek the counsel of an experienced criminal defense lawyer. If a case results in multiple charges or if a complaint is filed after an acquittal, a defendant may be able to use the double jeopardy defense. A dedicated defense lawyer understands the importance of Fifth Amendment protection and will use it within the scope of a legal defense, fair prosecution, and just sentencing.

Reynaldo G. Garza, III
680 E. St Charles, Suite 600
Brownsville TX 78520
(956) 202-0067

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